Fueled by reader requests for an overview of currently available small-body guitars, Acoustic Guitar invited manufacturers to send us samples of their small-body instruments with list prices between $500 and $1,000. We ended up with 11 guitars that are surprisingly diverse in sound and feel, some inspired by vintage instruments and others with more modern body and neck shapes, materials, and appointments. In checking out these guitars, I was assisted by Pete Madsen, a San Francisco Bay Area fingerstyle blues guitarist, teacher, and frequent Acoustic Guitar contributor. Here’s our review of the Eastman E60M.
After a couple of decades building bowed instruments in China, Eastman first entered the guitar market with a line of well-received archtops, and for the last few years, the company has offered a line of vintage-inspired flattops. The E60M has “classic OM” written all over it. With the exception of a more rounded (but still fairly chunky) neck profile, it essentially follows the Martin OM-18 blueprint in its design, construction, and tonality. The guitar is built with quality materials, including an evenly grained spruce top, and details such as the diamond volute behind the headstock show that Eastman paid close attention to the guitar the E60M is modeled after. But if you’re used to a more traditional appearance, the reddish stain on the mahogany back and sides and neck will seem a bit unnatural, and there are some cosmetic craftsmanship issues, including some fairly visible scratches (possibly tool marks) on the ebony bridge and fingerboard. On a positive note, the guitar’s finish seems to be thinner than on many Chinese-made instruments, and its setup was excellent. Tonally, the guitar had the brightness that can be expected from a mahogany OM, and it was matched with a lovely fullness, complexity, and elastic dynamic range. Like all good OMs, the guitar was equally at home with fingerpicking or flatpicking. Players looking for authentic OM sound and feel at a budget would do well to check this one out.
SPECS: Solid Sitka spruce top. Solid mahogany back and sides. Three-piece mahogany neck with dovetail joint. Rosewood fingerboard and bridge. Scalloped X-bracing. 25-inch scale. 1 3/4-inch nut width 2 5/16-inch string spacing at saddle. Vintage-style Gotoh open gear tuning machines. D’Addario EXP light-gauge strings. Made in China.
PRICE: $1,000 list/$799 street.
MAKER: Eastman Guitars; (800) 789-2216, eastmanguitars.com.
See all 11 Affordable Small-Body Flattops.